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GPS and the fourth dimension, Time

In addition to communicating an exact position, GPS provides a fourth dimension, time. Multiple atomic clocks can be found in each GPS satellite and they contribute very precise time data to the GPS signals. Users of this timing data, can determine time within 100 billionth of a second.

Financial networks, electrical power grids and most communication systems rely on exact timing and synchronization to be efficient. Because timing clocks are so expensive, the free availability of GPS time has been a real cost saving benefit to markets around the world. Its free access has led to significant advances and use in its capability.

Data networks, financial markets, base stations and the wireless industry (DAS, C-RAN, BBU, BTS, Small Cells) all use GPS time to keep everything synchronized. Why does this matter? Because it allows cell phone users to share a limited radio spectrum. It makes sure that broadcast radio (digital) arrives at all receivers at the same time. It enables financial markets to handle traders disputing the recorded value of a transaction, making an inarguable time-stamp.

Many companies have placed GPS-based time synchronization devices in their power plants and substations. It enables them to systematically locate faults on the grid. Traditionally, a visual inspection of overhead power cables or the use of helicopters would be used to identify the source of power outages. GPS time allows the company to analyze the precise timing of an electrical problem on the grid. Engineers can then trace back the exact location of a power line break in record time.

GPS timing helps to meet the requirements of many industries. No other single system allows for such accurate and inexpensive timing and synchronization control.


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